Opinions — March 12, 2013 at 6:03 am

Letter to the Editor: UC divestment from Israel divides campus

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The past couple years have been symbolic of peace and progress towards building relationships between different student organizations that affiliate with the Middle East. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Highlanders for Israel (HIFI), and Hillel, the Jewish student organization. These clubs have been working on creating lasting friendships despite Middle Eastern politics. It seemed that everyone was working towards a durable peace, but recent events show otherwise.

All of this progress was put to shame during the Senate meeting on Wednesday, March 6, 2013, when SJP proposed the divestment bill, which calls for UC divestment from Israeli companies.

Hillel and HIFI were notified of the divestment bill only 20 hours prior to the meeting. The news was a shock to the Jewish community on campus; no one had expected their “friends” to deceive them and keep their plans a secret. Then at the meeting, SJP was given an extra fourteen minutes to present the bill. Those who opposed the bill were put at an unfair disadvantage, and were given a significantly shorter amount of time to speak. Up until this point, the organizations freely shared information about upcoming plans and events out of mutual respect.

In fact, many students who identify with the Middle East have been working together for the
past two years in hopes of establishing a Middle East Student Center (MESC). The center would help foster a friendly space that would equally and fairly represent the marginalized groups on campus who associate with Israel, Palestine, and other Middle Eastern countries. Students, who disagreed on political issues, and specifically, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, were able to put aside their personal differences and come together to discuss a cultural center where different student organizations could freely express themselves.

Despite the internal progress made between the students while working on the MESC, this
Senate meeting quickly differentiated those who are Pro-Israel from those who are Anti-Israel. Representatives of HIFI and Hillel had trusted members of SJP. Ironically one year ago, in last March, the SJP President, Shadi Matar, issued a statement to Press Enterprise: “I’m still friends with the people I’m working with… I will continue to work with them and put out my hand”. Looking back at this moment, it is apparent that the months of hard work and compromise were all lies. There were several times when HIFI and SJP have extended hands of friendship to each other, and it is disappointing that SJP felt it necessary to drastically change the campus dynamics.

There was already tension in the Senate Chambers when the meeting first began. As the meeting proceeded, people in the galley could sense anger rising, and it only got worse within the next two and a half hours. When the Senate casted their votes, 11-5 for divestment, supporters began to cheer and record the moment on their phones. Others, however, had the overwhelming sense that they were unwelcome. In a short evening, the student body had quickly become polarized. From then, on, people would be judged by whether or not they supported the bill in Winter 2013.

The divestment bill, in its entirety, much like the way in which it was presented, is filled with
lies. The bill maliciously compares Apartheid South Africa to Israel, and this accusation, along with others, could not be further from the truth. While South Africa’s legal system enforced discrimination and oppression based on race, the Israeli legal system is similar to that of the U.S., and advocates for every citizen’s equality regardless of race, religion, gender orientation, and ethnicity. Under Apartheid South Africa’s government, black Africans were not allowed a voice in the government. Yet in Israel, every citizen is protected and has equal rights and opportunities.

In Israel, Arab men and women can vote, travel freely, obtain medical care, and own property. The country’s official languages are Arabic and Hebrew, and official religions include Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. In Israel, the only Democratic country in the Middle East, Arabs, Christians and Jews hold seats in Israeli Parliament and have the right to the freedom of speech, religion and press. It is shocking that in the Middle East, people of different backgrounds live together and live in such unity, while on the UCR campus, there is such divisiveness and hostility.

Despite all of the progress made with the MESC, SJP breeched their trust with HIFI. As a result of this bill, Jews, Israelis and their friends, have been alienated from the rest of the student population.

Jacqueline Zelener
Highlanders for Israel

  • Meriam

    TRAVEL FREELY!? That’s the biggest load of crap that I’ve ever read. How is having a checkpoint at every mile interval, freedom of movement for the Palestinian people!?..in their homeland, I must add.

  • Anne

    “As a result of this bill, Jews, Israelis and their friends, have been alienated from the rest of the student population.”

    Be adults about this and stop playing the victim. This is the Palestinian REALITY: marginalization in the US, as a result of America’s glorified butt-kissing of Israel. Um, hello, $8.3 million a DAY goes to Israel from American tax dollars, and it feeds the occupation that makes Palestinian life a living hell. If your feelings are hurt because some students decided to fight back and call Israel out on it, and your feelings are hurt because they’re calling for accountability and transparency with our student funds, then you need to check your privilege and get over it.
    Besides, this is UCR we’re talking about–the rest of the student population, besides SJP, Hillel, and a few other select orgs, don’t even know or CARE that this happened. No one’s going to alienate you unless you alienate yourself. Carry on with your every day life as you were, and stop the whining. Your hurt feelings do not justify a very illegal 45-year-old occupation.

    • Meriam

      Very well put, Anne!

  • http://twitter.com/natalie_haddad Natalie Haddad

    What a nice load of crap.

  • Brady

    It seems that Nelson Mandela disagrees with you in regards to the comparison of Apartheid South Africa to Israel.

    “Palestinian property is not recognised as private property because it can be confiscated. As to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, there is an additional factor. The so-called “Palestinian autonomous areas” are bantustans. These are restricted entities within the power structure of the Israeli apartheid system.”

    “Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.”

    http://monthlyreview.org/2001/04/21/nelson-mandela-on-israel

  • reignfive

    Nothing screams unwelcome better than a 24 foot concrete wall, a military occupation and blockade, and illegal settlements, girl. Well written emotional argument, although an inaccurate and baseless one.

  • Laila

    FREEDOM? Quit lying Jaqueline! There is no freedom for the Palestinian people. Do you justify FREEDOM by the wall of separation? The checkpoints? The Israeli soldiers driving around in their tanks and jeeps fully armed, is that FREEDOM? Oh wait, I am an American citizen yet when I visit “Israel” I am stripped of my freedom, I am interrogated, can’t visit Jerusalem or go beyond the wall of separation and can’t visit the beauty the country holds, is that FREEDOM? Please answer that!  I live in Jewishville in Los Angeles and all my neighbors and landlord are Jewish from “Israel” yet they see the reality and TRUTH of what the Israeli government is doing. They left Israel because they didn’t want their children to grow up in corruption and taught to hate people, just like the Zionist teach their children. Why is it that some of your own people see the truth and here you are lying about it? 

    On another note, congrats UCR! I am so PROUD of you :D  

    Kal FREEDOM! Get your facts straight and do the research. Another thing is I am not attacking you an neither are the members of SJP. You are not the victim those who are living in war and poverty around the world are victims! 

    Oh one last comment. You know what’s even sadder is that the Jewish people suffered from the Holocaust and here they are repeating it to the Palestinian HUMAN beings! Can you please justify that? 

    Layla tov! 

    • Meriam

      OUCH! ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/gary.fouse.98 Gary Fouse

      It appears that no resolutions were passed regarding the on-going massacres in Syria.

      Nor the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the attacks on their churches, and the violence as the Muslim Brotherhood cements its grip on that country.

      Nor the missiles fired into Southern Israel by Hamas in Gaza.

      Nor the strife in Yemen as the last remaining Jews attempt to get pout of the country and al Qaeda runs amok.

      Nor the continuing bloodshed in Libya including the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi that killed 4 Americans including our ambassador.

      Nor the Islamist-driven civil war in Mali.

      Nor the constant terror attacks against Christians in Nigeria.

      Nor the genocidal situation in Darfur as Islamists in North Sudan continue to threaten the black Christians and animists in South Sudan.

      Nor the on-going bombings in Iraq as Sunni and Shia continue to kill each other and Christians flee persecution.

      Nor the dwindling Christian population of Leanon under Hizbollah

      Nor the continuing killings and terror attacks in Afghanistan.

      Nor the continuing terror attacks and killings in Pakistan as Christians continue to be persecuted as well as Ahmadi Muslims.

      Nor the constant human rights violations in Saudi Arabia and second class status for women.

      Nor the continuing development of nuclear weapons in Iran, the persecution of Baha’i and Christians and threat to world peace.

      Nor the daily assaults and harassment against Jews in European cities by Muslim immigrants.

      No. It is all about Israel, a tiny democratic country where Arabs enjoy more rights that anywhere else in the region surrounded and threatened by barbaric, Jew-hating nations where human rights do not exist.

      How ridiculous these university campuses look.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2523604 Pouneh Iranian B

    I’m sure when people voted to integrate black and white students, there were those who said it was divisive because not everyone agreed. Good morning apartheid supporter.

    P.S. You don’t represent all Jews so stop saying “the Jewish community was…” You can say “the Zionist community was…” but don’t use all Jews to justify your support of occupation and violence. This is not a Jewish issue but a human one.

    • Meriam

      BOOM. love it

    • Laila

      Well written.

  • Tina

    There is so much wrong with the letter I don’t know where to begin.

    First, all of you, and by you I mean the supports of the Israeli government, say that this bill is only a symbolic victory so what was the point of proposing it? If it was only a symbolic victory why are you making such a big deal about it? Why are you whining and complaining if it doesn’t do anything? I’ll tell you why, its because you’re scared. You and all the other Zionists. You all know this may only be symbolic, but its a step in the right directions. The tides are turning and people’s perspective of Israel is changing. People are starting to realize what goes on there exactly and it scares all of you.

    Second, I am part of the Middle Eastern (not East) Student Center committee, I have been for two years.You have no right to use our group in our letter because you have not been a part of it at all. You have no idea what we are doing, what goes on in our meetings, or even what our mission statement is. Yes the center is meant for all Middle Eastern Students, but the center is not being made because there are students who feel marginalized, it is being made because students of Middle Eastern decent had no where to go to get help and guidance specifically for Middle Eastern help. Hillel does have an office and a director, but Arab/Muslim students do not, so I would say this is mainly for them. There is no backstabbing going on with the MESC, you just think there is.

    Third, you say this bill is “Anti-Israel” when in reality it is Anti-racism. If you actually took the time to read it, it clearly says it is Anti- racism and not Anti- Israel like you want people to believe. It says, and I quote “LET IT FINALLY BE RESOLVED, that we, the students, call upon our university to dissociate itself from groups or companies that promote systematic prejudiced oppression”. No where does its say we are Anti-Israel. Unless you are saying that Israel promotes prejudices and oppression, then there is no reason to think its Anti-Israel. Also, I am a current board member of SJ, and have been for the past two years. You have not once “extended your hand” to us. This does not change the campus climate, other than the clubs that were involved, the rest of the campus has no idea that there was even a bill presented. This does not change anything, stop trying to be the victims.

    Fourth, I was in that senate chamber when the bill was passed, there was no tension, only tension created in your minds. The room was filled with joy. Nobody made you feel un-welcomed you did that your self.

    Fifth, and one of the biggest lies ever told, Israel IS an apartheid state. Black in South Africa (SA) were not allowed to vote, and neither do Palestinians. Blacks were not allowed to travel to certain places just because they were black, same goes for Palestinians. Palestinians are not allowed to enter Jerusalem just because they are Arab, some Arabs are not even allowed to enter other Palestinian cities just because the check point is closed that day. There are Palestinians only roads, buses, and buildings. Palestinians cannot be citizens of Israel so they are not protected, and the few that are, do NOT get the same rights as Israeli’s. They are treated like second class citizens. Blacks in SA were issued ID cards, Palestinians are issues ID cards that clearly state their race, religion, gender, and ethnicity. Israelis don’t have one. Palestinians have to get finger printed to be identified, Israelis don’t. Israeli’s have swimming pools, sprinkler systems, and first pick in the limited water supply, Palestinians barley have drinking water. If this is different than SA, someone please explain to me how?

    What kind of democracy is separate but not equal? What kind of democracy imprisons young children just because they are defending their right to go to school? What kind of democracy doesn’t allow their “citizens” to cross over to the next city to go to a hospital and is forced to give birth on the side of the road? If that is democracy count me out. You say Israel is so great and does all these great deeds for their citizens, but have you actually been to the Palestinians territories? Have you actually seen what they have to go through on a daily basis just to survive? No you haven’t. I implore you to watch the documentary “5 Broken Cameras” and tell me that you still believe what you believe. We work together just fine at UCR. Over in the Middle East there is fighting and killing everyday, and you are comparing that to UCR? Please show me the hostility on campus, I am curious to see what I am missing.

    If you feel alienated, that’s on you. This bill was meant to stop racism and prejudices done by any group or company. If you feel alienated, then it must mean you partake in these racist acts, otherwise there is no reason for you to feel like that.

    - Tina M.

  • Christian

    Why is Israel put on this pedestal when the surrounding countries and so many other countries have issues that are so much worse? When I Google “worst human rights violators” Palestine isn’t there unless I go to a specific site that has a Middle Eastern section, and even then Palestine is at the bottom. I don’t understand, can someone tell me why these Israeli violations are more important than the others only on American campuses?
    Maybe I should try Bing?

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